Jaguar out with F-type roadstar version


THE F-type R coupe tops Jaguar’s new sports-car range; it’s the most powerful series-production Jag model ever. It responds accurately to even the smallest of steering inputs through an exceptionally stiff body. It is fearsome, loud, and fast.

   Does that description seem fitting for a Jaguar, which for decades has been the place you go for comfortable high-speed sitting rooms? Chief engineer Mike Cross replies: “It’s time for a change. This car is more than just the coupe version of the F-type roadster. It’s a high-performance sports car with a completely different character

   “Completely different” might be overstating things a bit, but it did strike us as more intense than the already fully committed F-type roadster. The coupe has the same basic dimensions and proportions as the convertible and comes with the same interior, which is relatively narrow. It features a beautiful, sweeping roofline with a rear window that reminds us a bit of the E-type coupe. The roof panel is available either as aluminum or panoramic glass, which adds about seven pounds. Weight, especially in the roof, is a major perform­ance killer. It’s no stripped-down Porsche GT3 RS, this car.

   But the biggest visual payoff is at the rear, due in part to the glorious absence of a spoiler—at least, an obvious one. When the car exceeds 70 mph, an air deflector nesting in the tapered shut-line rises to reduce lift by a claimed 265 pounds. It retracts again when you slow down.

   Besides its silhouette and rear end, it is the R coupe’s precise driving dynamics that distinguish it from the top roadster version, the F-type V-8 S. Thank the car’s extremely rigid aluminum unibody. Hydroformed aluminum beams that sweep up the A-pillars, along the roof edges, and back to the beltline replace the structural contribution of normal B-pillars. Cross asserts that the F-type coupe is the most torsionally rigid production car Jaguar has ever built

   Its extraordinary rigidity enables the R coupe’s sharp steering and sensitive adaptive dampers, which respond to road-surface changes every half second. The net effect for the driver: detailed information on road conditions with no need for hyper-stiff springs and shocks.

   The direct-injected and supercharged 5.0-liter V-8 comes with 55 more horsepower than the V-8 S roadster for a total of 550 horses at 6500 rpm, just a hair more than Jag’s 1992–1994 XJ220 superflop. In the F coupe, that’s enough stonk to push the car over 186 mph. A higher top speed would require tougher tires, so to save costs, Jaguar engineers limited the R coupe to 186 exactly.

   More than the increased horsepower, the extra 42 pound-feet of torque over the V-8 S roadster is palpable when booting the R coupe out of tight corners. When the engine delivers its maximum 502 pound-feet of torque, the electronically controlled differential—an updated version from the S roadster that responds in an even quicker two-tenths of a second—distributes the maximum each rear wheel can use. At the same time, the torque-vectoring system brakes the inner wheels in a corner to ­modulate between over- and understeer. By selecting the sharpest driving mode—logi­cally labeled “dynamic”—the system allows slight drifts. It’s just enough to let the driver bask in a few milliseconds of heroism, even if it is an illusion. The computer running the electronic stability system has no ego, however, and does its work with anonymous deftness. 

   Throttle response is immediate, allowing the driver to steer the car at the stability limit through bends just by playing with the gas pedal—assuming, of course, that stability control is switched off. Because of the car’s lofty performance, Jaguar offers what it calls Carbon Ceramic Matrix brakes. In Europe, that option costs around $13,700, though we don’t know the price here yet

   That’s a lot of dough to shave off 46 pounds compared with iron discs, even if they’re combined with 20-inch forged aluminum wheels. The pedal feel is a bit harder with these brakes, and its response is faster due to the pre-fill system: As soon as the driver lifts off the gas pedal, brake-line pressure builds automatically. 

   The new F-type R coupe embodies the brazen attitude Jaguar abandoned in the ’60s. With its athleticism, including acceleration from zero to 60 mph in as little as 3.5 seconds and a Nordschleife lap of 7 minutes 39 seconds, the R coupe moves closer to the benchmark Porsche 911 Turbo than any Jaguar before it. Except, that is, for its starting price, which at $99,895 is roughly two-thirds the Porsche’s. And don’t forget the Jag’s exhaust, which sounds like a Porsche being thrown to the lions. 

   That exhaust note might wear thin for some drivers pushing the throttle hard off a green light on Wilshire Boulevard. But the R coupe’s feral noise is just one more way Jaguar lets you know it is no longer playing around.


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